Nowadays – everywhere you turn – people are shouting from the rooftops about the importance of communication. If you want to have a good relationship with your partner – communication. If you want to have a good relationship with your kids – communication. Heck if you want to have a good relationship with your pet – yup you guessed it – communicate. But what does communication mean? Webster’s dictionary defines COMMUNICATION as: an act or instance of transmitting verbal or written information; a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior. Well I’m glad we cleared that up! Are you?
People are always searching for the secret to making relationships happy, long lasting, and meaningful. I think the answer is simple, we need a return to basics – a portal back to simpler times void of jargon and big words like communication. You want to get your relationship back on track, or better yet – not let it falter to begin with? I have two four letter words for you – the key to relationship success is TALK and TIME (not the four letter words you thought I was going to use!) TALK to your partner and make it a priority to spend TIME with your partner.
It is a commonly held belief that things that are not moving forwards are inherently moving backwards. Very little in life stands still or remains the same. I often liken relationships to a down escalator. If you are not constantly investing in the relationship, making advances and taking steps forward, you will naturally fall backwards. The stress associated with having a baby speeds up the down escalator, making it that much more crucial that you are working on and actively investing in your relationship. So, if you are thinking that you can check out of your relationship for a while because life feels hectic, or you just want to devote all your time to taking care of your beautiful, new, little baby… guess again. Don’t expect to pick up a happy relationship when you return. It won’t be there. Distance erodes a relationship faster than a flesh eating bacteria.
You may say, that’s all nice and good but life is busy and hectic and that’s not realistic. There isn’t always time to indulge in long conversations and romantic date nights and make big investments into your relationship. And at times, that’s true. I do believe that date night is an invaluable way to spend your time and is a deposit in your “Prevention of Relationship Discord Bank” account, so it might be worth reconsidering how you allocate our time. However, I am a realist and I often recommend that couples have two contingency plans.
Plan A - When life seems relatively quiet, enjoy a more lengthy date night together. Really talk your heart out. Reconnect with one another and get back in touch with all the aspects of your partner that you adore and love. On the other hand, when life is more inherently challenging and busy, there is Plan B.
Plan B involves making a commitment to spend a few minutes at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day talking and spending time with your partner, child or lovable pet. (there are those two four letter words that we talked about). Start your day together and end your day together. Use these few moments to stay connected, intuned and checked in, while constantly reaffirming your collective bond with one another so that it can carry you over until Plan A becomes more feasible. You will be amazed at the impact that these few minutes twice a day can have on your relationship. When you take pearls and string them together, collectively they make a beautiful necklace. So too, it is the little gestures, the small day to day moments that we share together that can have a dramatic effect on the overall vibe and electricity in the relationship. No big gestures required (although always nice and appreciated).
BUT…there is a catch. One may not remain in Plan B mode for more than three weeks at a time. After a period of three weeks, one MUST switch to Plan A for a minimum of a week, before returning to Plan B. In this way, hopefully you will create more balance in your life, feel less daunted about talking to your partner, taking time out to spend with y our partner and continue to reap the benefits of a meaningful connection with the people you love.
Dr. Alyssa Berlin, PsyD, CGE, is a Psychologist, Certified Gottman Educator, Co-Founder of Berlin Wellness Group, and a PAM Advisor